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It’s not too late to earn elite status for 2006

SmarterTravel

If you’re a frequent traveler, one of the best gifts you can give yourself is the gift of elite status. Free upgrades, mileage bonuses, and priority check-in, seating, and boarding make the travel experience much more enjoyable.

Time is quickly running out for frequent flyers who haven’t yet qualified for 2006 elite status. Most airlines require travelers fly 25,000 miles or more between January 1 and December 31 in order to attain elite status. If you haven’t planned your final elite-qualifying travel yet, here are a few tips to help you attain special status.

Mileage runs

The simplest way to snag those last few elite-qualifying miles is to fly. Some flyers use a December getaway to visit family over the holidays or a last-minute shopping trip to rack up the remaining miles. But what if you have no travel planned and don’t have the money for a full-blown vacation? In this situation, the experts set off on mileage runs.

A mileage run is a flight taken solely for the purpose of earning miles. The trick is to find the cheapest fare possible that will earn the desired number of elite-qualifying miles. You can look for last-minute deals or other airfare sales to find discounted flights. Depending on the fare rules, you can book a return flight that leaves only a few hours after your original flight arrives, eliminating the need to stay over in your destination city and pay for a hotel. Or, you can view the run as a chance to briefly tour a new city. Just remember that mileage bonuses usually do not count toward elite status.

Limited-time deals

Toward the end of year, airlines sometimes offer deals to encourage travelers to fly more and attain elite status. At press time, United was offering double elite-qualifying miles and segments on flights through December 15 to frequent flyers who paid $200 for the privilege. Offers such as this one allow wannabe elites to earn elite-qualifying miles more quickly and can mean the difference between qualifying for status and coming up a few hundred miles short. If you don’t see a promotion listed on your airline’s website, you might want to call and ask if such an offer exists exlusively for loyal members.

Comped status

If you have elite status this year, but fear you won’t be able to qualify again for next year, you might consider asking for comped status. Some airlines will give you elite status without asking you to qualify for it if you can prove you have elite status on a competitor and intend to travel frequently on the new airline in the coming year. Comps are a one-time treat, so don’t ask for one if you don’t plan to take advantage of the status. You may not get the chance with that airline again.

For some travelers, it may be too late to earn elite status, even with the help of these tips. If you’re in that group, our advice is to forget about this year and focus on the next. January 1 wipes the slate clean, and everyone must start earning elite-qualifying miles again. Stick to your preferred airline, find the deals, and book travel early in the year.

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